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NBA AM: Gallinari on the Road to Recovery

Danilo Gallinari discusses his health and timetable for return while attending adidas Eurocamp in Italy. … Does staying in Minnesota make sense for Kevin Love?

Jesse Blancarte



Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari talks about his re-hab, getting healthy and what he expects from the Nuggets next season.

Danilo Gallinari Stops by adidas Eurocamp While Rehabbing From Knee Surgery

On April 5, 2013 the Denver Nuggets announced that Danilo Gallinari had torn his ACL playing against the Dallas Mavericks. Gallinari underwent surgery to repair his meniscus, but the surgeons did not repair his ACL, believing it would heal on it’s own. Unfortunately, Gallinari’s ACL did not heal, and he underwent another surgery on January 21, 2014 to reconstruct the torn ligament.

On Monday, Basketball Insiders caught up with Gallinari at adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy to see how his rehab is progressing.

“The body is very good,” Gallinari said. “We are four months out of the last surgery right now, so it’s going to be an interesting summer to recover, especially mentally because the body is feeling pretty good now. I got to get back on the floor and get back and feel the ball, and one-on-one and the five-on-five, so it’s going to be a working summer.”

When asked how it feels to be back on the court, going through basketball drills and exercises, Gallinari said: “It feels great, to have the chance to do what you do everyday, what you love to do everyday, and to not be able to do it for more than one year has been frustrating, but now I can do it, I’m back on the court and it feels great.”

Though he has been on the sideline for over a year, Gallinari has found other ways to improve his game, including how to take care of his body.

“I think that I am much better because you have the chance to focus on other things on the basketball court and maybe when you are playing you don’t do that much, but I think that that part has always been in my nature, always been in my repertoire, so I’ve been feeling pretty good with that,” Gallinari said. “But you have the chance to improve in some part of the game, not just the game, but some part of the body that you didn’t work before. I had the chance to know the knees, both knees a little bit better, to work on the muscles that I didn’t even know that I had those muscles before, so you have the chance to know your body better.”

The process to get back on the court has been long for Gallinari. However, he stays motivated by understanding that a career in the NBA does not last forever.

“I think you only have one life,” Gallinari said. “You only live one life. The basketball career, the average in the NBA is five years, but let’s say that you play a lot of years, or that you play 10 years in the NBA, that’s a small window. In that small window you got to give everything you got, because you don’t want to get old and think about the past, ‘that I should have done this,’ ‘I could have done this,’ so you want to do everything right now.”

At just 25, Gallinari still has time to make the most of that small window. He is surrounded by a lot of other young, talented players who will collectively try to make it back to the playoffs next season after finishing eleventh in the Western Conference this year. Gallinari believes that if the Nuggets can overcome their injury problems, they will be a very competitive team next season.

“I think that we can be a very good team, if we have a healthy team we can be very good,” Gallinari said. “We had a strange season with all these injuries than ever happened I think in the history of the NBA. It’s going to be an interesting year. Everybody is very excited in Denver. I’m excited, all my teammates are excited because we know that we have a good team and we have a chance to shock somebody and our goal is to make it to the playoffs in the best position we can.”

Injuries were the main problem for Denver last season, however, another issue was adjusting to rookie head coach Brian Shaw and his system. Gallinari believes having a year of experience under Shaw will pay off moving forward.

“It’s going to be very helpful,” Gallinari said. “I think he’s a great coach and he showed to us and everybody this year, and everybody loves him. He’s a player’s coach, he’s very close to us. You can talk to him about everything you want, and he’s very close to players and everybody loves to play for him and so that’s one of the most important things. That’s one of the reasons why we are very excited to start training camp.”

For now Gallinari is back home in Treviso, taking in the adidas Eurocamp.

“I think it’s a great opportunity every year, and especially to be back home is great,” Gallinari said. “To see friends, especially to see the young kids growing every year, the level is great and so to have the chance to represent adidas, not just all over the world, but especially in Italy, in Treviso where was one of the first places where Eurocamp was based on is a great opportunity, not just for adidas, and for all these kids, but also for me. To learn about them, to teach them a little bit and to follow them in the process, and also to work with my adidas family, that is always great to travel around the world with them every summer.”

The Nuggets sorely missed Gallinari this season as he is one of the most versatile forwards in the league. Hopefully his rehab continues to progress smoothly so he can help Denver get back to the playoffs, and so he can get back to making the most of his window of time in the NBA.

Blazers forward Nic Batum talks about the season, his team and what he is working on this summer.

Does Staying In Minnesota Make Sense For Love?

Last week, Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio said that he would like to speak directly to Kevin Love about Love’s desire to be traded. Rubio stated that the team had gotten better each year since his rookie season, and Love leaving would undo all that progress. In addition, team president and new head coach Flip Saunders told KFAN 100.3 in Minneapolis-St.Paul that Love did not have the right to be frustrated.

“Just like I told (Kevin) Garnett, he didn’t have a right to be frustrated,” said Saunders. “Why does any player have a right to be frustrated? You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. Should the team be frustrated? Yeah, the team can be frustrated. But I don’t think any one individual should be frustrated.”

Do Rubio and Saunders have a point then? Is Minnesota progressing, and can Love be part of the solution towards towards breaking the Timberwolves’ 10-year playoff drought?

Rubio joined the team in 2011-12, a season in which the team had increased its win total from the previous by nine games, in a lockout shortened season. Since Rubio’s arrival, the team has gone from 17 wins, up to 40 this season. Thus, it seems Rubio is in fact correct, the team is making progress. Nevertheless, Love has still never reached the playoffs, and that is plenty of reason to be frustrated.

This year’s team was projected to break the 10-year drought and compete for a playoff spot. By the end of the season, the Timberwolves had a +2.7 point differential on the season, better than the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies, all of whom finished ahead of Minnesota in the Western Conference standings (10th in the West). Additionally, the Timberwolves finished 10th in offensive efficiency, and 15th in defensive efficiency. So why did the Timberwolves fall well short of making the playoffs?

Most importantly, the team was inexplicably bad at closing games. After losing to the Raptors on January 17, the Wolves were 0-12 in games decided by five points or less. By the end of the season, the Wolves were 6-14 in games decided by five points or less. Simply put, the Wolves lost too many games in the closing minutes for a multitude of reasons.

Some of the other major issues included an anemic bench, poor rim protection, and poor perimeter shooting. The Minnesota starting lineups ranked seventh in the league in offensive efficiency among starting units, whereas the bench ranked 24th in the league in offensive efficiency among benches, which illustrates how big of a drop off there was when players like Love sat.

In addition, the Wolves were incapable of protecting the rim, allowing opponents to shoot 63.1 percent from within five feet of the basket, and blocking 3.6 shots per game, ranking last in the league in both categories. Neither Love, nor Nikola Pekovic could keep opposing players from attacking and finishing at the rim.

Also, the team made just 600 three pointers on the season (17th best in the league), connecting on only 34.1 percent of their attempts (26th best in the league). Outside of Love and Kevin Martin, no one shot at a particularly high percentage from beyond the arc.

Yet, in spite of all these issues, the roster has a solid foundation, and is  in need of tinkering, rather than a complete overhaul. Rubio is not a top-5 point guard, but he is better than he gets credit for. He will soon start training in Los Angeles with a new shooting coach, addressing the biggest issue in his game. Kevin Martin proved to be everything the Oklahoma City Thunder had originally hoped for when they traded James Harden, a wing scorer (19 points per game) and a lethal three point shooter (38.7 percent from beyond the arc). Corey Brewer is probably best suited as a backup small forward, but he filled in admirably as a starter this season, contributing 12.3 points per game, along with almost two steals and two assists. Nikola Pekovic missed 28 games, but is one of the best offensive centers in league when healthy. He is now backed up by Gorgui Dieng, who showed towards the end of the season that he could be a big time contributor at center moving forward. On March 20, Dieng chipped in 22 points, 21 rebounds, 4 assists and made 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Four days later, Dieng scored 15 points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block. Most importantly, Dieng addresses one of the biggest issues for the Wolves, as he is a very capable shot blocker. The team also has the 13th pick in the upcoming draft, where players like Doug McDermott, Nik Stauskas, Rodney Hood, and Zach Lavine could still be available.

Minnesota will need to add players who can knock down open jumpers, such as Anthony Morrow, who is set to be a free agent this offseason. Also, Rubio needs to take the next step in his game and join the upper echelon of point guards. In addition, Dieng needs to turn his flashes of brilliance into consistent production, providing a shot blocker down low, and sub for Pekovic off the bench. Lastly, Saunders needs to get more out of the team’s talent than former head coach Rick Adelman did this past season. The progress needed to end the playoff drought and compete may seem like a lot, but the majority of the necessary pieces are already in place.

For now, all indications are that Love has made up his mind, and a reminder from Rubio about the team’s progress will do little to change that. The frustration and issues go beyond missing the playoffs each season, and a move to teams like the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, or Golden State Warriors is simply more appealing to Love at this point. Yet, when considering Rubio’s comment about the team’s progress and taking a look at the pieces already in place, maybe giving the Timberwolves at least one more year makes more sense than Love realizes.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.


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Middleton, Bucks Aiming To ‘Lock In’ As Season Comes To Close

Spencer Davies catches up with Milwaukee Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies



Basketball Insiders had the chance to chat with Khris Middleton about the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks as the season comes to a close.

You guys won three out of four before you came into Cleveland. What was working during that stretch?

Just being us. Doing it with our defense, playing fast-paced offense. Just trying to keep teams off the three-point line. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do that [Monday] or two games ago, but it’s something we’ve just gotta get back to.

With the offense—it seems like it’s inconsistent. What do you think that’s got to do with mostly?

Just trying to do it by ourselves sometimes. Standing, keeping the ball on one side of the floor. We’re a better team when we play in a fast pace. And then also in the half court, when we move the ball from side-to-side it just opens the paint for everybody and there’s a lot more space.

For you, on both ends you’ve been ultra-aggressive here in the last couple weeks or so, does that have to do with you feeling better or is it just a mindset?

I’ve been healthy all year. Right now, it’s the end of the season. Gotta make a push. Everybody’s gotta lock in. Have to be confident, have to be aggressive. Have to do my job and that’s to shoot the ball well and to defend.

Have you changed anything with your jumper? Looking at the past couple months back-to-back, your perimeter shooting was below 32 percent. In March it’s above 45 percent.

I feel like I got a lot of great looks earlier this year. They just weren’t falling. Right now, they’re falling for me, so I have the same mindset that I had when I was missing and that’s to keep on shooting. At some point, they’re gonna go down for me.

Is knowing that every game at this point means more an extra motivator for you guys?

Definitely. We’re basically in the playoffs right now. We’re in a playoff series right now where we have to win games, we have to close out games, in order to get the seeding and to stay in the playoffs. Each game and each possession means something to us right now.

Is it disappointing to be in the position the team is in right now, or are you looking at it as, ‘If we get there, we’re going to be alright’?

I mean, we wish we were in a better position. But where we’re at right now, we’re fine with it. We want to make that last push to get higher in the seeding.

Lots of changes have gone on here. Eric Bledsoe came in two weeks into the season. You had the coaching change and lineup changes. Jabari Parker’s been getting situated before the postseason. How difficult does that make it for you guys to build consistency?

Yeah, it was tough at first. But I think early on we had to adjust on the fly. We didn’t have too many practices. There was a stretch where we were able to get in the film room, get on the court, and practice with each other more.

Now it’s just at a point where we’re adding a lot of new guys off the bench where we have to do the same things—learn on the fly, watch film. We’re not on the court as much now, but we just have to do a great job of buying in to our system, try to get to know each other.

Does this team feel like it has unfinished business based on what happened last year?

Definitely. Last year, we felt like we let one go. Toronto’s a great team. They’re having a hell of a season this year, but I feel like we let one go. This year’s a new year—a little add of extra motivation. We’ve been in the playoff position before, so hopefully, we learn from it when we go into it this year.

Would you welcome that rematch?

I mean, we welcome anybody man. We showed that we compete with any team out here. We can’t worry about other teams as much. We just have to be focused on us.

What has to happen for you guys to achieve your full potential?

Lock in. Just play as hard as we can, play unselfish, and do our job out there night-in, night-out.

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NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense

The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.

Buddy Grizzard



The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.

“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].

“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.

“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”

Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.

“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”

Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.

According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.

The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.

“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”

Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.

“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”

Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.

“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”

While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.

“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.

The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.

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NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics

The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.

Moke Hamilton



Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.

Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.

Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.

As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.

Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.

Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.

“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by

“I’m tired of not playing.”

Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.

As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.

What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.

Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.

Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.

Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.

In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.

Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.

With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.

As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.

Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.

But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.

And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.

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